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How to Understand the Definition of Etiquette

Throughout history, societies have always recognized sets of rules that dictated proper conduct. To understand etiquette, consider the reasons for the automatic behaviors you demonstrate every day.


  • TIP: Capitalizing entire sentences in an e-mail can be interpreted as yelling at someone, which in personal interactions would be a violation of etiquette.
  • Step 1: Respond to invitations and communications promptly. No one likes to wait around, so make sure that other don't have to. Etiquette is an unspoken form of self-respect shown by practicing the golden rule and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  • FACT: Formal etiquette today originated with bored nobles in the French royal court of the 17th and 18th centuries, who drew up rules for conduct for the upper classes.
  • Step 2: Note a rising preference for internet rules of conduct, now being called "netiquette," to govern e-mail, online forums, business communication, and social networks.
  • Step 3: Greet others with warmth, refrain from insults, and stay out of people's business. Offer hospitality and generosity to guests and act ethically in life, without expecting or demanding anything in return.
  • Step 4: Practice etiquette by offering a seat to pregnant, elderly, and infirm people on public transportation. Demonstrate it by not swearing or dropping litter, recognizing that you are accountable to others.
  • TIP: Contemporary social norms today permit loud phone conversations in public or taking nonemergency calls at the dinner table. But it's still impolite.
  • Step 5: Think of etiquette as a set of rules that make it easier for people to get along. An apt definition would include avoiding boorish behavior in all circumstances.

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